dental health for seniors

Love Your Valentine’s Day Smile: Dental Health for Seniors

Chocolates. Flowers. Cards. These are all great gifts for someone you love at Valentine’s Day, but nothing says, “I love you,” more than a gleaming smile. Maintaining a healthy smile has a huge impact on a person’s overall health. However, chronic illnesses and other aspects of aging can affect dental health for seniors. This Valentine’s Day, celebrate the season of love by helping an older loved one maintain a healthy smile. The tips below from Senior HomeCare of Tucson, a trusted provider of home care and memory care in Tucson and the surrounding areas, can help improve dental health for seniors you love.

What Dental Health Issues Are Common Among Seniors?

Aging can affect mobility and cognition that can make it harder to brush teeth and care for dental issues. Medications for chronic illnesses can also cause oral issues like dry mouth that can increase the risk for cavities. Additionally, Medicare does not cover routine dental care, and many seniors in the U.S. lack dental insurance. Without dental insurance, routine dental care is often skipped and many oral issues can go overlooked, like:

  • Tooth decay: According to the CDC, around 96 percent of older adults have had at least one cavity, and 1 in 5 people age 65 and over has untreated tooth decay.
  • Tooth loss: Without regular dental care, tooth decay can lead to tooth loss. Per the CDC, nearly 1 in 5 seniors has lost all of their teeth.
  • Gum disease: Periodontal disease or gum disease is rather common, affecting around 20 percent of older adults. However, it can become serious and lead to tooth decay and loss if not treated.
  • Oral cancer: Oral cancers are primarily diagnosed in people age 62 and older, and it is important to spot these issues early in regular dental exams.
  • Xerostomia: Xerostomia, or dry mouth, is a common problem for older adults. Saliva production can decrease with age, and many medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect. Decreased saliva production can have an impact on the health of teeth and gums, including tooth decay and loss and gum disease.

What Are Some Ways to Improve Dental Health for Seniors?

While there are several oral health issues that older adults and their caregivers need to be aware of, there are also many steps that can be taken to prevent them and improve dental health for seniors.

  • Schedule annual visits with the dentist, even if the senior does not have natural teeth or wears dentures.
  • Brush, or assist the senior with brushing, twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss daily to remove dental plaque.
  • Avoid smoking and using tobacco products.
  • For seniors with diabetes, it is imperative to follow doctor’s orders in order to manage the disease properly. This will decrease risk for other complications, including gum disease. Additionally, treating gum disease can help to decrease blood sugar levels.
  • If your loved one’s medication causes dry mouth, ask their doctor for a different medication that may not cause this condition.
  • If dry mouth cannot be avoided, make sure the senior stays well hydrated. Chewing sugarless gum can also help with dry mouth.

Changes to Watch For

Because the risk of oral cancer rises as a person ages, it is important to be on the lookout for any changes in and around the mouth, including:

  • A new, uncomfortable, or sore spot on the lip, in the mouth, or in the throat
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing, or moving the mouth or jaw
  • A lump in or around the mouth
  • Numbness or swelling
  • Pain in an ear that doesn’t affect hearing

Regularly seeing the dentist is the best course of action for maintaining dental health for seniors. Too often, however, older adults find themselves in a position where it is difficult to get to and from medical appointments. Partnering with Senior HomeCare of Tucson, a trusted provider of home care and memory care in Tucson and the surrounding areas, can help! Our caregivers can provide reliable transportation to dental appointments to ensure senior loved ones get the regular dental care they need. We can also provide dedicated personal care, including assistance with oral care, for those who need help with brushing and flossing. Contact our team today to learn more about how we can help improve dental care for a senior you love.

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